What Exactly is the Floe Edge?

What is it?
The floe edge, or “Sinaaq” in Inuktitut, is where sea ice meets open water. It’s at these junctures where Nunavut’s magnificent wildlife flourish. It’s an ecosystem that shifts with the seasons, where many iconic Nunavut animals co-exist. You may see a hungry polar bear catch a seal for lunch, or a pod of narwhals glide by.

For centuries, the floe edge has been integral to Inuit life in the Arctic. Hunting along the floe edge brought food, clothing, and tools to the community. This tradition continues today as the spring hunt is an important milestone for many Nunavummiut.

While the floe edge is a part of the landscape all across Nunavut, the warmer seas of Baffin Island result in a wild hub of activity. 

A narwhal pops its head up from the water @todd_mintz_photography
Credit: Todd Mintz Photography

 

What exactly can you see?

When you picture iconic Nunavut animals in your mind, there is a good chance you can find them at the floe edge. But here is a list of the most common animals that can be spotted here:

Seals
Whether it’s a bearded seal, ring seal, hooded, or harp seal, these semi-aquatic animals all call the floe edge home across the Arctic. While they spend most of their time in the water, seals come ashore to breed, or rest. However both water and air prove dangerous for the seal who are prey for both killer whales and polar bears.
 

Walrus
These enormous marine mammals live in both the Pacific and Atlantic arctic regions. Over 20,000 Atlantic Walruses call Nunavut home, and spend their days sun-bathing on sea ice, and munching on almost anything they can find including shrimp, crab, and mollusks.

Narwhals
One of the most unique whales in the world calls the Arctic home year-round. Feeding on mostly fish, squid, and shrimp, narwhals stay close to the floe edge in order to ensure they can come up for air after their deep dives in the icy water. Don’t be surprised if you spot a beluga or two as well.

Sea Birds
Where predators and prey meet, also means lots of leftovers for arctic birds. The Arctic is home to some of the most unique birds on the planet including: King Eiders, Snow Geese, the Arctic Tern, and more.

Polar Bears
And finally, the kings of the North find themselves year after year headed to the floe edge to hunt. Polar bears can commonly be found patiently waiting next to breathing holes for an unassuming seal to pop up out of the water. And with the beautiful landscape before you, we bet you’ll be content to sit tight and wait with him. 

A seal floats along the water in the Arctic Ocean @@zoeamber86
Photo credit: @zoeamber86

 

When is the best time to go?

To witness this extraordinary cycle of life, the best time to visit the floe edge is typically May - July. While many parts of North America are experiencing their summer, Nunavut is still welcoming spring - and with that a flurry of wildlife activity. 

In these few months, you may see pods of whales on their annual migration journey, or a polar bear taking a sunny stroll. Make sure you bring your camera, as the floe edge offers wildlife photography opportunities like no other place on the planet.

 

A group of photographers patiently wait at the floe edge. @travel2unlimited
@travel2unlimited

 

How do I get there?

Typically, a guide will take you and your party by snowmobile out to the ever-shifting 

edge. Depending on season and location, you may set up a day camp to quietly wait, or kayak through the sea ice and arctic waters. 

As beautiful as the Arctic is, it is a challenging environment. Always enlist the services of a guide or operator company to take you out. Their knowledge of the land ensures not only your safety, but the best chances of spotting wildlife.

Explore our list of operators to discover your next adventure on Nunavut’s floe edge.